While Christmas lights are a colourful source of joy around the holidays, they can also prove to be deadly, according to firefighters.
With decorations such as sparkling lights, tinsel and candles on display across millions of homes, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) has asked people to make fire safety a priority this month to avoid severe damage to the home, burns injuries or worse.
December is always a busy time for firefighters. Crews attended more than 146 structural fires in the last month of last year.
QFES Commissioner Greg Leach has urged Queenslanders to make sure their decorations are safe to use, as it only takes a small flame to set a festive home ablaze.
“A house fire is a life-changing and devastating experience regardless of the time of year, but we especially do not want to see a preventable tragedy happen this Christmas,” he says.
“We’re calling for everyone to do some simple checks to ensure their home and family are safe.
“As you’re getting your decorations out of storage, make sure they’re in good condition and discard of any lights or electrical equipment that’s not up to standard.
“Be on the lookout for any power cables that are frayed or kinked and avoid placing electrical items close to flammable objects like furniture and curtains.
“Only use decorations outside where they have been specifically designed for outdoor use. Indoor lights simply aren’t made to withstand the elements and can pose a serious fire risk under the wrong conditions.
“Lights and candles should be placed in safe locations and never left unattended, especially while your family is sleeping at night.”
While preventative measures around decoration quality and placement were important, Greg says working smoke alarms are essential and changes to smoke alarm legislation would add enhanced safety to households.
“There’s no disputing that smoke alarms save lives and photoelectric, interconnected alarms provide a fantastic early warning system to allow people the maximum amount of time to escape a residential fire,” he says.
“From January 1, landlords must have installed photoelectric, interconnected smoke alarms in residential rental properties at the commencement of a new tenancy or tenancy renewal.
“All other dwellings must comply with the new legislation by 2027.”
Greg says the start of the holiday season was a perfect time for families to review their home fire escape plan.
“In an emergency you, your family and any Christmas guests in your home may have as little as 15 seconds to escape,” he says.
“Take time to review your fire escape plan and ensure everyone in your home is aware of the nearest exit, the location of any keys and your chosen meeting place in an emergency.
“Have a conversation with children about the importance of not playing with electrical items such as lights, as well as candles and matches.
“A little bit of preparation can go a long way to ensuring your family has a safe and happy Christmas.”